How to Get Your Content Read, Part II: Headlines

A headline is your first, and possibly only, chance to capture the attention of prospective customers when they view content on your website.

If you hope to attract traffic to your site, you'll have to compete with the millions of headlines already floating around the internet.

Last time, in Part I of How to Get Your Content Read we looked at the importance of concise writing. In Part II, we'll take a look at the importance of an engaging headline, and examine a few time-tested headline formulas that work.

The first impression

In business and in life, first impressions are everything. Think about it---when you meet a person for the first time, what do you pay attention to? Probably the way they dress, speak, and act in that situation.

Your brain uses that information to make a snap judgement about that person, and you adjust your attitude accordingly. First impressions are not always accurate. Nevertheless, once that first impression is made, it's hard to shake.

Headlines work in much the same way. When a prospective reader happens upon your site through a search or referral, they make a snap judgement about your content based on what they see first---the headline.

Brian Clark of Copyblogger has this to say about headlines:

"...a headline can do more than simply grab attention. A great headline can also communicate a full message to its intended audience, and it absolutely must lure the reader into your body text."

It doesn't matter how great the body of your content is. If your headline does not engage the prospective reader and compel them to read more, then most likely they'll move on to another website.

How do I come up with a headline that prospects will want to read?

Let's say you maintain a blog for a bed and breakfast in York Harbor, Maine, a popular vacation town on the east coast, and you want to write a post that will drive traffic to your site.

First, you'll need think about your audience, in this case, prospective guests at your B&B. What would they want to read about? What kind of content would they find useful?

Well, they need to eat. That's a given. You may serve a fantastic breakfast, but they have dinners and lunches to think about. Therefore, a post listing the best restaurants in town would be extremely helpful.

Also, don't forget to use keywords in your headlines. Keywords are search terms prospects use to find your business on search engines. To learn more about keywords and other search engine optimization tactics, check out this post.

So now that you have an idea for a post. Let's take a look at some ways to create an engaging headline for places to eat in York Harbor.

Time-tested headlines that work

Here are a four headline formulas that have proven effective over the years. Make use of these formulas on your blog, and you'll improve the appeal of your posts.

#1 - The Command Headline---great copy tells the prospect what to do. This type of headline lets you speak directly to the prospect and provide them with useful info. When writing a command headline, think about what your customers want. Then tell them what to do.

"Find the Best Restaurants in York Harbor, Maine"

#2 - The "Top Ten" Headline---this old standby is an effective way to attract readers to a list post. Your list can include more or less than ten items. But ten is the classic formula.

"Top Ten Romantic Bistros in York Harbor, ME"

#3 - The News Headline---this type of headline is great if you have a newsworthy post for your blog. If it's brand new information, writing a headline like you would read in a newspaper adds to the urgency of the post.

"New Italian Restaurant Opens in York Harbor"

#4 - The Question Headline---this type of headline works best if you take the time to listen to questions posed by customers. Find out what questions they're asking and write headlines that ask the same questions.

"Looking for the Best Burger in York Harbor, Maine?"

More Headlines that Work

These are just a few classic headline formulas that work. There are thousands of other effective combinations out there. Next time you're browsing the web, reading a magazine, or watching TV, pay attention to the headlines media professionals use and ask yourself, why are these headlines so effective? Or why are they not effective?

Writing great headlines is an art form. To master that art, learn from the masters and incorporate what you learn in your blog.

Need more ideas for headlines that work? Contact us today.

Written by Jackson Armstrong on June 29th, 2011

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